I am referring here to section 189 (2) (a) which relates to a statement that the auditor shall circulate if he is resigning, stating the circumstances in which he has resigned. This is quite an important statement because if the auditor resigns because of some malpractice in the company that he is not prepared to continue to condone, that should be brought to the attention of the members of the company and their creditors as quickly and as fully as possible. I would like to be satisfied that the auditor would enjoy some measure of privilege in making such statements against being sued for libel.
I could not exactly formulate a proposal, but it seems to me that if these statements are to be useful, auditors must be able to tell it as it is, but they will not tell all if they find they are liable to be sued, or they will be gagged by the threat of legal action by the company or by directors of the company. I would not put them in the same situation as Members of the Dáil, for instance, in giving them absolute privilege but some form of qualified privilege, similar to that enjoyed, say, by members of a county council, should be given to them. If they are not making that statement for personal gain, but in the public interest, they should be protected against being the victims of a libel action, simply because they were factually inaccurate, if acting in good faith. I would be interested to hear the views of other Members of the Committee with greater practical knowledge of the way in which this branch of the law operates. I believe that protection of this kind should be given.